The Good News

My two weeks of coaching in Cambodia concluded on July 31st and I flew home on August 1st. It’s hard to believe I was only in the country for two weeks; given all the new experiences I had and all the wonderful people I met, it felt like I’d been there much longer. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the progress all the players made during my time there, and it’s incredibly heartening to know that I leave the program in excellent hands with Chris Minko and his organization, the CNVLD, as well as Didier Cooreman and the ICRC, ensuring the continued growth of the sport in my absence.

I was able to spend two short days in Kampong Speu with the players before I left – it was supposed to be three, but I came down with a nasty Cambodian stomach bug that landed me in the hospital for a few hours and in bed for a couple days. I was feeling better by the 31st, though, and got a chance to run one last practice and look at pictures of the tournament in Battambang with all the Kampong Speu players – it was a great way to say goodbye and everyone loved seeing themselves in action in the photos.

After I’d left Battambang, Mary, my translator there, sent a short video clip her husband filmed during one of the tournament games. It’s just a random snippet of the games, but it exemplifies perfectly the enthusiasm, energy and skill the women played with (not to mention their vocal stamina!). Enjoy!

There are some exciting opportunities on the horizon in Cambodia. The CNVLD and ICRC are hoping to get the top 10 women registered as a national team for the Para-Southeast Asian Games, which take place in Burma in February 2014. If all goes as planned, I’ll be taking the team to Burma as their head coach. I can hardly imagine what an experience that will be!


Stretching before the big tournament

The Bad News

Shortly before I returned from Cambodia, I was informed by Alberto Cairo that the ICRC has decided – in light of the direct attack on its Jalalabad compound in May – to suspend many of its expatriate-led activities for the remainder of 2013 to ensure the safety of its staff. Unfortunately, this means I will not be able to return to Afghanistan in October as I’d hoped. The goal now is for me to go back sometime in the spring of 2014, assuming no other major security incidents happen in the meantime.

I was devastated to learn this news, as were the players when I relayed it to them, but they were all very gracious and understanding. They know I would be there if the choice were up to me, and each of them has separately said that, as much as they want me to come, my safety is more important to them than anything. I know how much this game means to them now, and I can’t thank them enough for their kind words and patience. I will make sure that my trip in 2014 is the best yet to reward their forbearance.

Promising News

There are a few upcoming possibilities for starting wheelchair basketball programs in other parts of the world that may be taking me abroad in the fall despite the cancellation of the Afghanistan trip. I’ll be updating the blog as I find out more in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!